A father sweats to realise his son's dreams

A father sweats to realise his son's dreams

Batsman Priyam Garg (left) and under-19 head coach Paras Mhambrey.

A mischievous Sachin Tendulkar climbing tree to steal mangoes is one of the most endearing episodes in the celebrated story of the legendary batsman. As the popular tale goes, it was to put an end to his naughtiness and bullying nature that Tendulkar’s brother Ajit decided to enroll him in a cricket academy.

Decades later in a distant land and in a cricketing outpost, no amount of mischief by Priyam Garg would convince his father Naresh to see cricket as a future for his youngest son. Like a quintessential Indian father, Naresh wanted his son to be an adhikari (officer).

“Initially, I wanted him (Priyam) to focus on his academics. I was very clear in my mind that he should be a studious boy who goes on to become a highly respected officer,” Naresh tells DH.   

Priyam, though, would have none of it. He was hooked to cricket and the man fueling his dream was Tendulkar. It didn’t matter to him that he grew up without a television at home. Escaping from the eyes of his strict father, he would go and stand outside television showrooms to watch his idol bat.

It was at that time in India when youngsters across the country picked up the cricket bat aspiring to be next Tendulkars. Fact remained that only a handful of them were successful in playing the game at the highest level. Talent and luck alone weren't enough in becoming a successful professional in the cut-throat world of Indian cricket. You needed some and a solid backing.

Priyam was a gifted batsman, but born in a family of seven in Quila Parikshigarh village in Meerut, he desperately needed some support before he ran out of time. And, as things would turn out, it was Naresh himself who finally relented and decided to back his son. For someone who had no fixed job and had the responsibility of his wife, three daughters and another son, it wasn’t easy to give his nod but  Priyam was unyielding, recollects Naresh.

“Despite my repeated advice to focus on academics, Priyam hardly listened to me. Eventually, I decided to make him happy,” says Naresh. He took the then eight-year-old Priyam to Victoria Park, the place that produced India internationals like Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Praveen Kumar.

Even as Priyam honed his skills under popular coach Sanjay Rastogi, Naresh went to extreme lengths to provide his son with all he needed. Apart from driving a school van, he sold milk and distributed newspapers to make some extra money. He would personally drop him to the academy, which was 25km from their house.

On days when there was no money, the story goes that Priyam travelled on roof tops of buses to reach the coaching centre. It also became inevitable for Naresh to borrow money from his friends to buy Priyam a quality cricket kit. To improve the depleted situation, Naresh took up a driver’s job in the Uttar Pradesh health department.

His limited knowledge of the game notwithstanding, Naresh predicted a bright future for his son. It was gut-feeling, he says. “When he started grabbing attention in age-group cricket, media persons flocked to talk to me. I had told them back then to keenly follow my boy’s performances as he is definitely going to make it big one day,” he says.

Two weeks ago, Naresh was elated when Priyam was named the U-19 skipper of the Indian squad for the Youth World Cup in South Africa next year. “For any parent, to see his or her child achieve so much is a proud feeling. I want him to stay committed and succeed more,” he says.

Inside the talented player existed a tough heart. At the age of 11, just as he had begun making an impression, Priyam lost his mother Kusuma Devi. He fought through the tragedy for the sake of cricket.

“The game was my junoon,” he says. “I had to do it for my father. I loved Sachin and began playing because of him. I would bat thinking of him. The other person I owe my career to is my father. His hard work and sacrifices to bring me where I am today is unbelievable. I was thrilled to break the news about my selection for the World Cup to him,” he says.    

Looking back, Naresh prefers to be modest while talking about his efforts. “Look, hard work and sacrifices are something expected out of a father. But the bigger credit goes to almighty. It’s he who decides everything. Many a times, despite hard work, you don’t get what you want because the almighty is against it. So it’s all God’s doing,” he offers.

Priyam’s tough beginning has made him a fearless cricketer. “There is no pressure going into the World Cup. I see this as a wonderful opportunity to lead my country to such a big title,” he says.

The 19-year-old, who smashed his first double ton in the U-16 Vijay Merchant Trophy, broke into the Uttar Pradesh senior side last year. In his maiden Ranji Trophy season, the right-hander smashed one double century, five half-centuries and two centuries.

 

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